EAST LANSING, MICH. The Michigan State Spartans will be picking on someone their own size this Saturday when they face Missouri, coach Bobby Williams said Monday.
Williams said Missouri's bulk and speed will make the team a tougher opponent than Central Michigan, the MAC team the Spartans beat Saturday. Missouri (1-1) defeated Southwest Texas 40-6 last week but lost a close game to Bowling Green on Sept. 1.
"We're getting, from a personnel standpoint, some athletes who are very similar to ours," Williams said. "I think this team is going to challenge us."
It should be a very different game than last Saturday's season opener against Central Michigan, which the Spartans won at home 35-21 despite numerous errors. The Spartans collected 11 penalties and were flagged for delay of game four times.
Williams downplayed the team's problems, blaming them on nerves and inexperience.
"Hey, guys, it was our first game and we played like it was our first game," he said. "If this happens three, four, five weeks down the road, then I'm really going to be concerned."
This week, Williams said he'll concentrate on Michigan State's lackluster kicking game. On Saturday, Central Michigan's James King tied a Division I-A individual and team record, blocking four of the Spartans' punts.
"It's definitely a concern of mine. But it's fixable," Williams said, adding that he will be trying out various kickers in practice this week.
He said the Spartans showed a lot of positives that the team can build on this season, including some strong offensive plays. Williams also praised his defensive line, saying it skillfully handled everything Central Michigan's fast, no-huddle offense could throw at it.
Williams said he's considering moving freshman Eric Knott from tight end to defensive end, where he could get more playing time.
He defended Knott and sophomore Damon Dowdell against the protesters who stood outside Spartan Stadium on Saturday, questioning the players' admission to Michigan State.
In June, Knott pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a misdemeanor, for a 1999 incident involving a 13-year-old girl. He served 30 days in jail and was placed on one year's probation.
Last year, Dowdell join the team after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery in the same July 1999 incident. He did not serve time in jail.